While we don’t want the kids to think too much inside the box there needs to be a reality check when it comes to size of props. They must fit through a standard door, fit in a car (or in whatever you will be using for transportation), not fall apart or break easily, damage your home or car, the performance facility, and fit inside the required competition area.

 

Oh goodness, where has the fun gone?

 

Being aware of these restrictions will help as you work with your team. None of us wants to be guilty of outside assistance, but we do need our sanity, too. So, if you have not already thought about this and had this discussion with your team you should! Open or print the Program Guide (Send Division II and III teams to this section to read with you) and make sure you understand the standard requirements. Think of length also. Can the backdrop go through a door and turn through tight spaces? It will be crowded on competition day and the hallway may be smaller than anticipated. Make sure you are prepared for the actual problem requirements also. Will you perform in a 10’ X 10’ area? Does the vehicle need to fit in a 6’ x 4’ area? Armed with this information can help you in properly guiding your team. If a backdrop is looking to be close to the limit of the performance area, or the vehicle is starting to look like it will not fit through a standard door, how do you discuss this? Part of the meeting can be to read and discuss the requirements and let the kids figure it out. Armed with this information then makes it easier to pose the question when it looks like the kids are going down a dangerous path, size-wise. Does anyone remember the size restriction for the vehicle? How can you be sure it will fit‚ please hope they say measure, and not with their eyes but with a measuring tape! If you have any doubt yourself, make them take it to the school and get it through the standard gym door (Read Chapter 5, page 37‚ and be sure to make sure it is the size indicated in the program guide). One team I coached swore they had measured the vehicle width and made a vehicle where the wheels could not be removed. The width was off by a smidgen but that smidgen was not going to move or be sawed off! Only, and I say ONLY because they were charming and had super cool janitors that removed the middle bar at the state tournaments, and they cajoled entry through a back entrance at the world competition was this team saved certain doom! A combination of sheer luck, some cool adults and problem solving kids, but my heart had way too much stress. They could have been disqualified.

 

Is the team making something that needs to come apart and go back together to get to practice, tournament, etc.? Will the numerous (and there could be many) taking apart and putting back together cause damage for the actual performance? Will the quality go down on props if moved around or taken apart too much? Depending on the level of your team, both age wise and experience wise this might be a discussion. For example, what happens to a screw put in and out many times during assembly and disassembly? Is there a better way to attach the pieces? Using cardboard for a backdrop that begins to bend and fall down is another example. Is there a way to make the cardboard more resilient? Is there another material that will not bend easily? I’ve seen all kinds of solutions that work, from the original idea retained, to a change or modification of material, to creating a simple practice prop and retaining the scored prop only for final practice and performance.